Longevity in fruitful church ministry requires a foundation of discipline – one that Mark Purser has cultivated over the last twenty-three years in his various pastoral roles. Mark, along with this wife, Tania, and four children, feel called by God to the local church and have a strong desire to make a difference in people’s lives. Mark recognises that to be responsive to this calling requires them all to be at their best. “I have seen too many pastors burnt out and living with anxiety on the back of not attending to their own needs and those of their families.” Anxiety affects one in four people in Australia at some stage in their lifetime. For Mark, it is clear that pastors are not immune from society’s expectations, distractions and pressures. In fact, pastors and those in ‘helping positions’ can be more prone to these pressures, which often lead to burn out.
Mark reflects, “Finding healthy rhythms with work, family and rest has been crucial to my enjoyment and effectiveness in pastoral ministry and life in general.”
In his youth, Mark made a firm commitment to Christ at a Scripture Union camp. He recalls the experience of God’s creation at its best being a catalyst in that decision. One aspect of Mark’s discipline in self-care is solitude with God in wilderness experiences. “I still find myself connecting deeply with God in these beautiful and peaceful settings today as I remove myself from the external distractions and noises so prevalent in our culture.”
Mark’s launch into pastoral ministry was a leap of faith. Leaving a national field hockey career and secure family business behind, Mark took seriously the need to close doors of possibility and worldly success in order to be obedient to God in becoming a Youth Pastor at Heathmont Baptist. The discipline of saying no to stability and success is not revered in our culture, but it was the risk that God required of Mark at the beginning of his pastoral work, and for his various leadership roles since.
It was in this first pastoral role that Mark submitted to mentoring. Being mentored has become a life-long discipline and has been responsible for significant growth in his life. Rev. John Wright at Heathmont Baptist mentored Mark in theology and practical application of the Word. Rev. Allan Demond at NewHope Baptist imparted to Mark strategic visioning and preaching, while Pastor Wayne Cordeiro at New Hope, Oahu (Hawaii) has helped Mark in personal disciplines, leading out of one’s strengths and self-care.
Having given up a successful sporting career has not stopped Mark from maintaining physical exercise as a key aspect of his self-care. Regular running, walking, bike riding and time at the gym helps him to be at his best. His love of sport has been well matched with an AFL chaplaincy role at the Essendon Football Club.
Mark is passionate about living a life of faith and embracing the principles that Jesus lived out. What some may see as work, he sees as simply part of his life that he carries with him wherever he is.
God led Mark and his family from Heathmont to NewHope in Melbourne, then to Clovercrest Baptist in Adelaide as Senior Pastor, and more recently back to Melbourne to undertake a role as the Church Relations Manager with Baptist World Aid. Mark’s wife and four children have been with him through these big changes and challenges. Mark acknowledges family as of utmost importance in his pastoral work and commitments: “Family is a high value in my life, and I am attentive to the time we spend together. I’m determined to make sure that my vocational ministry does not come at the expense of a happy and healthy family unit.” All his children are now in their teenage years, and while Mark describes himself as an ‘uber parent’ responding to their transportation needs, he gets immense satisfaction from seeing his kids excel in their giftings and growing from their constant learnings and challenges in life. “My deepest prayer is for each of them to continue in their faith and step into the calling God has for each of them.”
A new challenge is now on the horizon. Compelled by the vision to grow and multiply disciples, Mark is moving into a new role as Campus Pastor at Crossway, Burwood East Campus. To this role, he brings a wealth of experience and gifts that lend themselves to a multi-staffed and multi-ministry church. He also brings the wealth of life-long disciplines that bring life and health to ministry and family; disciplines that build a foundation for longevity. “It’s a discipline to find time for myself, my wife and kids, but one that is truly rewarding.”
Rev Mark Purser